Rush Limbaugh and the Mantle of Reagan

Rush can communicate conservatism over liberals' heads, just as Reagan did.

With the sort of glee that comes only from total victory, the Democrats and their allies in the mainstream media have seized upon Mr. Obama's election as an opportunity to declare conservatism legally dead.  Most voters weren't even born the last time the Left held such unchecked power over all aspects of government: from the White House to the Capitol to courthouses and statehouses all over, it's nothing but liberal Democrats as far as the eye can see.

Conservatives, of course, have the confidence of their beliefs.  Being on the losing side is made somewhat easier by knowing that you're on the right side of history in the long term, but only just a bit.  Being right in defeat is all very well, but being right in victory is far preferable.

So for the last two years, and increasingly desperately for the last few months, those who normally vote Republican have been looking for a path back to power.  Change the party?  Change principles?  Change leadership?  It's all on the table.

When your team has sunk so low it helps to return to fundamentals and to study past examples of former glories.  For conservatives, this means Ronald Reagan, the man who won the Cold War and shifted the national center of political gravity to the right for thirty years.

What was it about Reagan that made him the force of nature that he was?  Certainly it was his policies, his principles, and his sense of right and wrong - but there are many who share his beliefs with far less effect.  Certainly his famous optimism and cheerfulness was inspiring - but there is no shortage of happy warriors; John McCain was one, and it got him nowhere.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is a name often put forward as a future conservative savior.  He recently had his first chance to don the mantle of Reagan; alas, instead he fell on his face.  It's worth considering just why that happened.

The Missing Magic

There is nothing wrong with Bobby Jindal as a leader.  He has proven his mettle through his deeds, personally diving into the Katrina catastrophe, tearing through red tape and bureaucratic befuddlement to get Louisianans the urgent help their lives depended on.

It's generally considered that this is how he became Governor in a state with a historic and powerful Democratic machine.  Since his election, he has attacked systemic corruption in a way that should make all Republicans proud; with only a handful of gubernatorial missteps, he is mostly going from strength to strength in Baton Rouge.

There is nothing the least bit wrong with his principles, either.  You could not ask for a more clear enunciation of conservative principles or a plainer warning of the deadly dangers of over-intrusive government, than in his response to Obama's Not-the-State-of-the-Union Address.

Yet there is something missing.  Somehow, even though what he said was entirely correct, the speech failed to "click."

When read, it is an excellent, even brilliant message.  When listened to, though, the most common reaction seemed to be a resounding snore.  The American people would rather hear the candyfloss untruths of President Barack Hussein Obama than the plain speaking of Gov. Jindal.

You could say that it's the fault of the liberal media, who set up the frame around Jindal so as to make him fail, and you'd be right.  This is not a new development however.  The commentariat has been socialist to a man at least since the 1950s - yet Reagan tore through the smokescreen and reached directly into the heart of the American common man who heard him.

It is just this power that made Ronald Reagan "The Great Communicator."  It is just this power that cannot be taught, and probably cannot be learned, but is inborn.

This is the only power that can enable conservatism to defend itself against the united and unanimous opposition of the entire political power structure, the entire educational structure, the full force of popular culture as represented by Hollywood and the media, and at least half of the religious leadership of this nation.  It is, in short, the last chance.

Bobby Jindal doesn't have it.

Rush Limbaugh does.

Confusion to the Enemy

Mr. Limbaugh has been preaching conservatism for twenty years, and in all that time he has been speaking to a self-selected audience.  If you like his radio show, you listen to it.  If you don't, you click over to NPR, it's as simple as that.

As an entertainer, he cannot force you to hear what he has to say.  To be a success, Rush must make people want to hear him talk.

Can anyone doubt that he has this ability?  As the host of the largest radio show in the country, he has persuaded some 5% of the American people to lend him their ears.  What politician can do that, except at the very top?

Last week, though, for the very first time, Rush Limbaugh entered a new playing field.  Previously his success has been restricted to talk radio - a large audience, to be sure, but something of a niche.

With his address at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Rush spoke for an hour and a half not just to the audience of conservatives, but nationally to all America via Fox News and CNN.  Most everyone in America has heard of Mr. Limbaugh; vastly more have now heard, and seen, him in action.

Yet to us, far more intriguing than what America saw, was what the pundits on CNN did not see.

After Mr. Limbaugh's speech ended, the news anchors and analysts attempted to dissect his speech as they always do.  When shredding a conservative, they generally know just what to say - just how to attack, and just how to belittle.  They've had a lot of practice, and they're very good at it.

With Rush, it was different.  There was a palpable sense of befuddlement in the studio.  The anchors knew that the speech had been powerful, saw the response of the crowd, and knew, somehow, that his message reached out through the TV cameras into the homes of viewers, even those not already conservative - but they could neither share nor understand it.

Let me tell you who we conservatives are:  We love people. [Applause] When we look out over the United States of America, when we are anywhere, when we see a group of people, such as this or anywhere, we see Americans. We see human beings. We don't see groups. We don't see victims. We don't see people we want to exploit. What we see -- what we see is potential. We do not look out across the country and see the average American, the person that makes this country work. We do not see that person with contempt. We don't think that person doesn't have what it takes. We believe that person can be the best he or she wants to be if certain things are just removed from their path like onerous taxes, regulations and too much government.

Not see victims?  Not think that government is the answer?  To believe, instead, that the insignificant little non-elite person whom nobody has ever heard of has the ability to improve his own life without recourse to government assistance?

This does not compute!  It doesn't click!  The liberal media simply could not comprehend what Rush was trying to say.

Americans did, and do - in exactly the same way as ordinary American people understood Ronald Reagan when he spoke, and in exactly the same way that the liberal pundits of his day did not.  A clown!  A cowboy!  An ignoramus!  A fool!  A... great, world-changing President?  How can that be?

They didn't understand Reagan then.  They don't understand Reagan now.  In the same way and for the same reasons, they do not and cannot understand Rush Limbaugh.

For Rush, alone among the conservative names of today, possesses that same great power that Ronald Reagan did, that source of his strength: the power to speak directly to the American people and show them the way, and in a fashion that the liberal gatekeepers could not successfully oppose because they couldn't even understand it.  By attacking him, they actually highlighted their own lies and false assumptions.

We don't hate anybody. We don't -- I mean, the racism in this country, if you ask me, I know many people in this audience -- let me deal with this head on. You know what the cliche is, a conservative: racist, sexist, bigot, homophobe. Excuse me, ladies and gentlemen of America, if you were paying attention, I know you were, the racism in our culture was exclusively and fully on display in the Democrat primary last year.

Everybody outside the elites knows that, but nobody dares say it - save Rush.  For the media, the racism of your average American white person is so self-evident that it's difficult even to explain - but for everyone else, the exact opposite is true, and self-evidently so the instant a voice proclaims, "The emperor has no clothes!"

The same is true right down the entire list of liberal beliefs - in big government, in socialized health-care, in bailouts, in welfare for unworking breeders, in Blame-America-Firstism, in open borders, and on and on.  The power of Reagan, like the power of Rush, is the ability to make common Americans realize that their innermost feelings are right, and that everybody they see talking at them on TV all day is wrong.

I want the country to survive. I want the country to succeed. I want the country to survive as we have known it, as you and I were raised in it, is what I mean.

Most Americans want America to succeed, but they've been told that it's wrong for them to want that.  This war is lost!  American is a nation of racist cowards!  Now, there is a voice saying otherwise - that what they feel in their hearts to be right, is.

The Road Rarely Taken

Would anyone have expected a movie actor to not only become President, but one of our greatest ones?  Of course not!  The very idea was laughable, and in many circles, still is.  Yet it's the truth.

Rush has never held elective office, but then, we established last year that the Presidency is an entry-level job and nobody seems to have a problem with that.

At the end of the CPAC convention, attendees were polled as to their preferred Republican standard bearer in 2012.  Romney, Huckabee, Palin, Jindal - similar names to the last time (less McCain), and still no clear winner any more than there was during the primary.

The true winner - quite frankly, the only man who has a prayer of an actual, effective conservative victory, because he is the only man who can actually communicate conservatism over the heads of the opposition - wasn't on the ballot.

Will he be in 2012?  The Mantle of Reagan still hangs in its closet, but we now know whom it fits.

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other articles by Petrarch or other articles on Politics.
Reader Comments
The reaction to Jindal points to one of the reasons this country is going down. Our priorities seem to be charisma and appearance rather than substance and principle (not to mention "common-sense"). Abraham Lincoln would have been laughed out of the politics of today.

This country needs someone like Rush (and Reagan) to help us believe in ourselves again, before socialism takes over and we fail with that, too. And take the world economy with us.

If there aren't any politicians out there with the guts to stand up for America, true patriotism, conservatism and free enterprise, then, I say, more power to Rush. He is electable because he stands for something. Even if he has no government experience. That might even be a plus!
March 3, 2009 9:21 AM
Exquisite, sir. Truly exquisite.
March 3, 2009 11:47 AM
If Rush Limbaugh ran for office in '12, I would not only vote for him, I'd have reason to believe in America again.
March 3, 2009 2:29 PM
The problem has always been that coservatives fail to explain the benifits of conservatism over the din of the MSM. Our principles are proven to work, liberalism/socialism are proven to fail.If our ideas are winners than our failure lies in one of two places. 1. The failure to adhere to our own principles. 2. Our failure to adequately express our principles. We have failed miserably at both in recent history. Reagan was a master at both. We need to live our principles in out daily life and learn to proclaim them in a manner that everyone can understand. When we live out principles we show others through example why and how they work. We need to get back to our principles and lead by example.
March 4, 2009 10:26 AM
It would appear that Scragged is not alone in its opinion. As of this afternoon, a new website is trying to draft Rush to run for President.

Good luck and best wishes to them!
March 4, 2009 1:27 PM
Perhaps what we need is a "So You Think You Can Be A True Conservative" reality show to find the best and brightest conservatives. Contenders chosen by a panel of Rush, Hannity, and Mark Levin as judges. Finalists to be chosen by the viewers voting. The winner will be Rush's VP candidate for the ticket in 2012. Now THAT is one reality show I'd watch.
March 4, 2009 11:41 PM
Add Your Comment...
4000 characters remaining
Loading question...